First woman Director for SF Ballet. “Passionate about pushing boundaries”

Lee Heidhues 1.11.2022

Another male bastion has fallen in San Francisco. The world reknown San Francisco Ballet has hired only its sixth and first female director in its 89 year history.

Growing up in San Francisco and Marin County my parents were intimately involved with the SF Ballet. They took ballet classes. It seems they were always going to the San Francisco Opera House to watch a performance. My mom worked in the administration at the ballet school. Their social friends were dancers in the SF Ballet.

While I never danced, due this early immersion, the ballet unwittingly became a part of my life.  It definitely influenced my life long mania to stay in good physical condition through running and cycling.

Excerpted from The San Francisco Chronicle 1.11.2022

Tamara Rojo, the dynamic and inventive Spanish ballerina who has served since 2012 as artistic director and lead principal of the English National Ballet in London, will be the next artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, beginning at the end of 2022.

Tamara Rojo III 1.11.2022.jpg
Tamara Rojo new Director San Francisco Ballet

“It may not sound that revolutionary, but my focus will be to enable creativity through a diverse variety of voices, including both American and international creators, and particularly to empower female voices in the ballet world. That is something I’m very passionate about.”

Rojo’s career as a performer began in earnest with her 1994 victory at the Paris International Dance Competition and has included acclaimed stints with the Scottish Ballet and the Royal Ballet. Her repertoire includes principal roles in wide array of full-length ballets — “Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “La Sylphide” and others — as well as works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Kenneth MacMillan.

Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, the San Francisco Ballet’s interim executive director, said that Rojo’s commitment to expanding access for audiences was one of the factors that made her appealing for the post.

“She’s dedicated and passionate about pushing boundaries,” St. Germain-Gordon said. “She’s a wildly engaging figure who is dedicated to making ballet more accessible to everyone.”

Rojo, 47, is set to succeed Helgi Tomasson, who will step down in June after 37 years at the helm of the company. The appointment, announced on Tuesday, Jan. 11, makes Rojo just the sixth person — and the first woman — to lead the company in its 89-year history.

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo, of the Royal Ballet, plays Princess Aurora alongside Carlos Acosta of Cuba as Prince Florimund during a dress rehearsal of The Sleeping Beauty at The Royal Opera House in London, 25 October 2006.  AFP PHOTO / JOHN D MCHUGH (Photo credit  JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty Images)

“I’m a longtime admirer of the San Francisco Ballet,” Rojo told The Chronicle in a Zoom interview from her London home. “Even when I was a young dancer, it was one of my dreams to dance with the company.

“Helgi, in my opinion, has been an absolutely groundbreaking director and made San Francisco into the most exciting company in North America. I’m very happy that the board chose me to be the next director of the company.”

Rojo was selected after a nearly yearlong search process that began as soon as Tomasson announced his decision to retire, said board member Fran Streets, who led the search committee along with Sunnie Evers.

“We came to the process with determination we would do an extensive outreach globally, to ensure that everyone was included, and that the search would be conducted in a fair and equitable manner,” Streets said.

“Tamara stood out from the very beginning. Everything about her impressed us.”

S.F. Ballet names Tamara Rojo as artistic director, succeeding Helgi Tomasson